Saturday, February 06, 2016

Brother Richard Dreyfuss And Politics

Brother Richard Dreyfuss, from William Baumbach II's photo gallery. 

Brother Richard Dreyfuss' son Harry has penned a brief but thoughtful piece about his father. It seems that Richard attended a Ted Cruz speech and he was spotted in the audience. The Twittersphere and electronic media immediately erupted over it. So, son Harry has responded with an entry that all of us should take to heart, no matter what our political persuasion may be.

From the post:

My father went to a Ted Cruz rally. My father also won an Oscar in the 70s and his name is Richard Dreyfuss. Those two things are only related because by virtue of being famous, my father’s attendance at a Cruz rally got written about by a couple of media outlets. Those write-ups were absorbed by a number of mouth-breathers, and so began The Dumb. 
Let me clarify. When asked if his being there suggested he supported Cruz, he responded, “It suggests that I’m interested in what he has to say… It’s the politics of my country, so I’m interested.”  
This seems like a pretty clear answer to me: 
I don’t necessarily endorse these views, but I’m curious about them because they are poised to have a very big effect on me and my country.

As Freemasons, we should occasionally go back and read our own founding documents, just to remind us once in a while of the duties we are taught to shoulder, as well as the manner in which we are supposed to behave towards Brethren who have different political beliefs than our own.

From the Ancient Charges:
A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern’d in Plots an Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior Magistrates; for as Masonry hath been always injured by War, Bloodshed, and Confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much dispos’d to encourage the Craftsmen, because of their Peaceableness and Loyalty, whereby they practically answer’d the Cavils of their Adversaries, and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish’d in Times of Peace. So that if a Brother should be a Rebel against the State, he is not to be countenanc’d in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime, though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.
Brother Dreyfuss was made a Mason "at sight" by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia F&AM in 2011.  He has founded the Dreyfuss Civics Initiative, a Research Society promoting civics and enlightenment values. Its goal is, “To teach our kids how to run our country, before they are called upon to run our country…if we don’t, someone else will run our country.”

Historic Masonic Buildings in the Los Angeles Area Still Thrive

Former Hollywood Lodge No. 355, now the El Capitan Theater.

Alice and I lived in the Studio City area of the San Fernando Valley back when we were in film school, between 1978 and 1983, as part of my 5 colleges in 7 years education plan. Unfortunately, I didn't have any knowledge of Freemasonry in those days, so I didn't have the slightest idea of what to look for in Masonic architecture. That's a shame, because some of the more magnificent Masonic lodges in the Los Angeles area were still owned by the fraternity back then, before the dramatic plummet in membership we suffered in the 90s and on past the turn of the new century. Nevertheless, most of them avoided the wrecking ball and have become new venues, while the fraternity moved on to newer, less costly digs.

I came across an article from 2014 on the Curbed LA website,  7 of LA's Most Magnificent Examples of Masonic Architecture by Pauline O'Connor, that points out seven of the more notable Masonic structures in the Los Angeles area. So if you are ever in the region with some time to kill (and you'll need it - traffic hasn't improved since I lived there), go and visit these beautiful locations.  One update from the article is that the unique Masonic Temple in North Hollywood was unfortunately sold last year, but will be developed.

By the way - notably missing from the article is the  Glendale Masonic Temple (left), which is currently being remodeled for commercial use.  Visit Glendale Lodge No. 368 here.

Down the road a bit is Burbank Lodge, where I had the distinct pleasure of speaking last year.  I heartily encourage you to visit them as well. See their website here.

And much smaller and older is the original home of Los Angeles Lodge No. 42, which was chartered in 1853, and was the first lodge in LA, as well as the second oldest in Southern California. Their original building  can be seen in the historic area known as El Pueblo de Los Angeles (right). They now meet across town in the Santa Monica Masonic Center.

California Masons March in Unity

From the Grand Lodge of California website:

Equality on all levels – including social, economic, cultural, religious, and racial – is a foundational tenet of Freemasonry. That’s why on January 18, members and leaders from the Grand Lodge of California and Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California marched together in communities statewide to help celebrate the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
California Grand Master M. David Perry marched in the Kingdom Day Parade in Los Angeles at the invitation of Most Worshipful Donald M. Ware, M.D. of Prince Hall.
“We joined together to Honor Martin Luther King, not as California Masons and Prince Hall Masons, but as Masons,” Perry says. “While his life was cut far too short, the lessons that he taught live on, and his legacy of diversity, awareness and equality, service and love still inspire us today.”

See more photos and details at the website here.

Brother Ed Mitchell, 6th Man on Moon, Dies

Brother Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the Moon, has died at the age of 85. He was a member of Artesia Lodge No. 28 in New Mexico, and one of the founders of the field of Noetic science. He died on the 45th anniversary of his Apollo 14 lunar landing, February 5, 1971.

From the CNN website:

Mitchell, Alan Shepard and Stuart Roosa were the crew of Apollo 14, which launched on January 31, 1971. Mitchell became the sixth man to walk on the lunar surface.  
He and Shepard set foot on the moon two separate times during their mission, spending more than nine hours collecting rocks, taking measurements and (in Shepard's case) hitting a pair of golf balls. Mitchell also took a famous photograph of Shepard standing next to an American flag. All told, the two spent 33 hours on the moon. 
Mitchell, who was the lunar module pilot, found the trip to be a profound experience. 
"Looking at Earth from space and seeing it was a planet in isolation ... that was an experience of ecstasy, realizing that every molecule in our bodies is a system of matter created from a star hanging in space," Mitchell told the UK Telegraph in 2014. "The experience I had was called Samadhi in the ancient Sanskrit, a feeling of overwhelming joy at seeing the Earth from that perspective."  
Fascinated and frustrated by the relationship between religion and science, he was very public about seeking links between the known and unknown.He said he had conducted ESP experiments on the mission. He was also a believer in extraterrestrial activity, and was convinced UFOs had visited Earth.  
In one interview, he told Bloomberg Business that the 1947 Roswell incident, which to some people is evidence of an extraterrestrial crash landing, was covered up. (The U.S. government has said the incident involved the crash of a high-altitude balloon.)  
"It's not just military. It's a cabal of organizations primarily for a profit motive," he told the publication.  
However, he drew the line when it came to an interview with the UK Mirror. The newspaper claimed Mitchell said UFOs had helped prevent nuclear war."None of those statements were originated by me," he told the Huffington Post. (The Mirror stood by its story.) 
Mitchell also created the Institute of Noetic Sciences to research paranormal phenomena and consciousness. In addition, he was co-founder of the Association of Space Explorers, an organization for space travelers. The astronaut was born in Hereford, Texas, in 1930. A Navy pilot, he joined NASA in 1966 as part of the agency's astronaut corps. He was well-qualified: besides having served as a test pilot and college instructor, he earned a doctorate from MIT in aeronautics and astronautics. 
Mitchell was part of the support crew for the Apollo 9 and Apollo 10 missions. A year after Apollo 14, in 1972, he left NASA to embark on his other activities.
Of the 12 men who have walked on the moon, now just seven survive: Edwin E. 'Buzz' Aldrin, Alan Bean, David Scott, John W. Young, Charles Duke, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt. Of those twelve, only Aldrin and Mitchell were or are Freemasons.
RIP, my Brother.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Old San Francisco Scottish Rite Building

There is a positively terrible article today on the SF Gate website about a building in San Francisco called the Regency Center. The story simply refers to the building as a "multi-purpose structure with a Freemason lodge," without delving much deeper, apart from the usual profane references to secret ceremonies. But if you have a scroll through the photos on the website of the interior details, you will see that it is, in fact, the former San Francisco Scottish Rite building, and with another very specific detail that suggests York Rite bodies met here as well.  

From the article:

But while many people have only seen the Ballroom and entrance, most of the building's reticent history is upstairs in the Lodge. "The Lodge would be reserved for rituals or for people who had been raised to higher levels," Garrett says, adding that there are some curious things they've learned about the construction of the room. 
For one, the walls were lined with velvet chairs — thrones, actually, is a more accurate descriptor — each of which was reserved for a member of the Freemasons during special ceremonies.  
"[The chairs] would be placed in a special pattern, like a sacred geometry type thing, to kind of emanate energy," Garrett says. "Like, there's power in a circle...Obviously, there was a lot of thought going into it." 
Oh boy. Spooky. 

A few more rational details are available on the website:
The mystery and tradition of the Masons are woven into the very foundation of the Regency Building. After two years of construction, the building was finished in 1909 and is thought to be the finest example of Scottish Rite temple architecture in the United States. Scottish Rite Masonry is one of the numerous branches of the Freemasons, a secret fraternal organization hundreds of years old. The architecture, designed to emphasize secrecy, gives the impression of alluring mystery. In 1961 the Grand Ballroom Level was leased out to the Regency Theatre and movies were shown here until the end of 1998. The Masons had the building until 1997, at which time the Regency Building took over the space as an event venue. 
The street level floor, now called the Sutter Room, was a dining and drill hall and features stunning arched ceilings. The Grand Ballroom Level above, was used for public assembly and balls. With its 35 foot high ceiling, hardwood floor and large stage, the ballroom and banquet tradition continues. The Lodge, on the third level where secret meetings took place, is a classic example of Gothic architecture complimented by crimson walls, 30 hand painted backdrops dating from the 1910's and 20's and a functional 1909 pipe organ.

More photos of the building are available on the Regency Center website HERE.

After they moved out, the San Francisco Scottish Rite went on to build a bigger and better facility, which is their home today. Have a look at it here.

Masonic Plot Suspect May Escape Terror Charges

The suspect in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin plot to attack a Scottish Rite center may not face terrorism charges. An extensive report on the story has been published on the Milwaukee Sentinel website.

From the excellent, in depth article by reporters John Diedrich and Cary Spivak:

Samy Hamzeh, according to federal prosecutors, plotted to launch a machine gun attack on a Masonic center in Milwaukee, saying he was "defending Islam," hoping to kill at least 30 people.
His dream: to spark other attacks across the country.
"We will be marching at the front of the war," the 23-year-old said, according to the criminal complaint.
To most, those statements embody terrorism.
But don't expect Hamzeh to face a federal terrorism charge.
There are no such federal laws for a case like the one being mounted against Hamzeh — a so-called lone wolf suspect who planned an attack using guns, according to former prosecutors and other legal experts who reviewed the case at the request of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Hamzeh case shows a gap in the law between the punishment for a lone wolf attacking with a gun and laws that target terrorism groups and attacks with explosives, said Stephen Vladeck, law professor at American University Washington College of Law.
"As the government is increasingly worried about lone wolves ... there is going to be a lot more attention paid to what federal law does or does not say about the issue," he said.
Hamzeh is charged with five counts for illegally possessing two machine guns and a silencer, which he bought from undercover FBI agents.
Experts say that's fine, that there are many ways to prosecute without a terrorism charge. They point out that neither the Oklahoma City bombing nor the Boston Marathon bombing were prosecuted as terrorism.
Keeping terrorism out of the charges prevents suspects from achieving one goal — public notoriety, said William Snyder, a former federal prosecutor in Pennsylvania.
"Why give them a soapbox? Why give them headlines? Why risk confusing a jury?" said Snyder, who now teaches law at Syracuse University.

Case falls between laws

Federal law, for the most part, targets foreign terrorists.
And the details in Hamzeh's case don't seem to fit the domestic terrorism laws on the books, said several lawyers who reviewed the complaint.
Hamzeh was not targeting a federal building or federal employees, and Masons are not a group protected by hate crime laws. Hamzeh was not planning to use a "weapon of mass destruction," and had not identified himself with a known terrorist group.
A conspiracy charge against Hamzeh seems doubtful. The two people authorities said he was plotting the attack with were both FBI informants, working under the direction of the agency.
So prosecutors may be left with the automatic weapons and silencer charges.
And that's OK, said Snyder — the weapons charges carry penalties of up to 10 years per count. Defendants, however, often cut deals where they receive far less than the maximum penalty.
But creative prosecutors may still find other charges, he said.
"Whether or not there is a terrorism charge, I'm confident they will find enough legal resources to have really, really long sentences in play," he said.
Federal prosecutors continue to review the Hamzeh case, and it's possible additional charges will be added when they present the case to a grand jury in Milwaukee.

Not seen as zealot

A U.S. citizen who has lived in Milwaukee for five years, Hamzeh has no criminal record. His family suggests he was set up by FBI agents working with people close to Hamzeh who were secretly recording him. Those informants have not been identified.
In online postings, his family said he was passionate about the plight of the Palestinians but was not a religious zealot and launching such an attack would be completely out of character. Friends echoed that, saying Hamzeh smoked marijuana and hung out in bars and coffee shops, but was no radical.
The criminal complaint says Hamzeh plotted to launch an attack on a Masonic center, which was identified as the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center in downtown Milwaukee, with two others — the two who were secretly recording him for the FBI.
Hamzeh came to the attention of the FBI because he had been talking about traveling to the Middle East to wage attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, the complaint says.
If Hamzeh's legal team mounts an entrapment defense, they may focus on the seriousness of those overseas travel plans. They also may argue that the informants suggested aspects of the Masonic center plot. Such defenses are rarely successful, as they must prove agents caused a normally law-abiding person to commit a crime.
In preparation for the attack, Hamzeh toured the center, practiced shooting at a range and spoke extensively about how the attack would unfold, according to the complaint.

"Who hates Masons?"

In the complaint, Hamzeh is quoted as saying the Masons "are playing with the world like a game, man, and we are like asses ... these are the ones that need to be killed."
The law lists several criteria for prosecuting a person who tries to hurt or kill someone based on the "actual or perceived," including religion, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.
The Masons are a semi-secretive fraternal service and social organization. They have not been recognized as a protected group.
Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who runs the Chicago office for Kroll, a private investigation firm, said prosecutors may be able to use the hate crime statute if they argue that Hamzeh was confused.
"Maybe he thought it was temple, a Jewish temple — now I could make that argument as a prosecutor," he said. "There has to be a reason why he wanted to kill the Masons. Who hates Masons? The Masons do good things."
Prosecutors in terrorism cases often use the so-called material support law when a suspect has identified himself with a known terrorist group and is helping them, or trying to.
But Hamzeh specifically said he was not part of a larger group, according to the complaint.
"We have our own group, not with Hamas. ... We are here defending Islam, young people together join to defend Islam, that's it, that is what our intention is."
It is also possible the case could be prosecuted in state court as an attempted homicide, but there is no indication that will happen.
Snyder, the former federal prosecutor, said charging decisions in cases involving suspected terrorists should be driven by a single goal: getting the suspect off the street before he can act.
"That's why this course is called 'not prosecuting terrorism, but prosecuting terrorists,'" Snyder told his students in a 2012 lecture. "The idea is to disrupt and prevent. Identify terrorists, prosecute them somewhere and break it up ... so that you are preventing the attack rather than trying to prosecute somebody for it after the fact."

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Islam and Freemasonry

On January 27th, the FBI foiled a plot to attack a Scottish Rite building in Milwaukee. A 23-year-old man named Samy Mohamed Hamzeh had planned to enlist two accomplices and kill as many people as possible at the Humphrey Scottish Rite Center. In his statement to authorities, Hamzeh said, “We are Muslims, defending Muslim religion…And we will eliminate everyone.”

Since the story was first publicized, Freemasons have asked why a Muslim man would want to murder Masons, particularly since our fraternity openly welcomes members of all faiths who believe in a Supreme Being. Lodges all around the world often initiate Islamic members, who take their obligations on their holy book, the Qur’an.

Like Christianity, Judaism, and the overwhelming majority of the world’s religions, there is no conflict between Freemasonry and the teachings of Islam. Few groups owe more to the region of the Middle East for the origin of its symbolism than Freemasonry. Nevertheless, Masonry has been outlawed in most Muslim-majority countries, with notable exceptions like Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

After Pope Clement XII excommunicated Catholic Freemasons in 1738, Sultan Mahmut I, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, outlawed Freemasonry throughout the entire Middle East and North Africa, under pressure from his Christian subjects and allies, and with the approval of his ulema (Islamic theologians).

Masonry became popular for a while in Egypt and Algeria in the 1800s, mostly beginning with Europeans living there. After World War I and the breakup of the territory that made up the Ottoman Empire, Freemasonry briefly came back to the Middle East, often by way of English, Scottish, and French oil industry workers. A few lodges still exist in Muslim countries on U.S. and British military bases and in residential zones set aside for foreign workers, but most Arab Muslims are forbidden to join by their governments and religious leaders.

One of the most influential organizations for interpreting Islamic law is the Islamic Jurisdictional College of El-Azhar University in Cairo. In 1978, it issued an opinion concerning “The Freemasons’ Organization.” Among its findings were the following:

*            Freemasonry is a clandestine organization, which conceals or reveals its system, depending on the circumstances. Its actual principles are hidden from members, except for chosen members of its higher degrees.
*            The members of the organization, worldwide, are drawn from men without preference for their religion, faith, or sect.
*            The organization attracts members on the basis of providing personal benefits. It traps men into being politically active, and its aims are unjust.
*            New members participate in ceremonies of different names and symbols, and are too frightened to disobey its regulations and orders.
*            Members are free to practice their religion, but only members who are atheists are promoted to its higher degrees, based on how much they’re willing to serve its dangerous principles and plans.
*            It is a political organization. It has served all revolutions, as well as military and political transformations. In all dangerous changes, a relation to this organization appears either exposed or veiled.
*            It is a Jewish organization in its roots. Its secret higher international administrative board is made up of Jews, and it promotes Zionist (pro-Israel) activities.
*            Its primary objectives are the distraction of all religions, and it distracts Muslims from Islam.
*            It tries to recruit influential financial, political, social, or scientific people to utilize them. It does not consider applicants it cannot utilize. It recruits kings, prime ministers, high government officials, and similar individuals.
*            It has branches under different names as a camouflage, so people cannot trace its activities, especially if the name of Freemasonry has opposition. These hidden branches are known as Lions, Rotary, and others. They have wicked principles that completely contradict the rules of Islam.
*            There is a clear relationship between Freemasonry, Judaism, and international Zionism. It has controlled the activities of high Arab officials in the Palestinian conflict.
*            Any Muslim who affiliates with it, knowing the truth of its objectives, is an infidel to Islam.

Active, practicing Freemasons know these allegations have absolutely no merit. Unfortunately, many Islamic countries do not believe in the separation of church and state. Communities that are governed by strict Qur’an-based Sharia law, which is believed to have been derived directly from the Prophet Mohammad, strongly accept that they are following God’s law, which supersedes any law that is written by Man. Freemasonry, which developed during the Enlightenment in Europe, is seen as promoting Western values that encourage blasphemy towards the Islamic faith. The recently publicized brutal punishments of non-believers by Islamic extremist groups like ISIS (the Islamic State), Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and strict governments like Saudi Arabia and Iran, are stark examples of Sharia law taken to its most severe level. As a result, being a Freemason can result in prison, torture, and even a death sentence in these places.

Because Freemasons are seen as agents of pro-Israeli Zionism, conspiracy theories about Masons are rampant throughout Islamic communities. One of the most common sources of such theories originates in a pamphlet that has been widely distributed for more than a century. In the late 1800s, the Okhrana, the Russian Czar’s secret police, created a notorious piece of propaganda called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In it, a secret meeting was described of a group of Jews who discussed their world domination plans, with the Freemasons as their accomplices.

The Protocols are the origin of a widely supposed “conspiracy” of a secret group of Jewish bankers who control the world’s governments, economies and religions. According to various versions of the Protocols, Jews are behind a plan for world conquest, and use Freemasons as their willing stooges. Jews and the Masons control the press and the courts, and Jewish revolutionaries use liberalism to weaken religion and governments. Jewish intellectuals confuse the common people, and they replace traditional educational curriculum to discourage independent thinking, and encourage immorality among children. They use their international banking monopolies and the use of credit to destroy the economy, favoring paper currency not tied to the gold standard. Jews and the Masons control governments from behind the scenes by blackmailing politicians. And during times of great emergencies, Jews will suspend civil liberties and then secretly make the measures permanent.

When Adolf Hitler came to power, he partially used the Protocols as justification for his plans to exterminate the Jews. Freemasons were also on his hit list, and they too were sent to concentration camps. One of the many popular slogans of the Nazis was “All Masons Jews — All Jews Masons!”

The Protocols have been rewritten and circulated for over a hundred years, and today they can be found all over the Internet, posted by a wide range of conspiracy-believing groups. The Protocols remain very popular in Islamic countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and especially the Palestinian territories, where they are distributed as official texts for school children to study. In 2002, a multi-part television docu-drama was produced for several Arab language networks based on the Protocols, entitled Knight Without A Horse. There are many other organizations, including the American Nation of Islam, some militia groups, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, and the American Nazi Party who still peddle the Protocols as fact.

Another area of contention between Islam and Freemasonry concerns something most Masons believe to be harmless, but Muslims clearly do not. The Ancient Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, now more correctly known as simply the Shriners, was started in the 1870s as the playground of Freemasons. The language of its ceremonies, and its costumes and decorations, came straight out of the exotic Tales of the Arabian Nights. Shriners called their jurisdictions oases; built their buildings to look like mosques, some complete with minarets and domes; wore fezzes; and adopted the Arabic phrase al salam aleikum (“peace be with you”) as a greeting. Unfortunately, many devout Muslims do not think such things are a homage to their culture. Instead, they feel their faith and culture is being mocked.

Open attacks against Freemasons by Islamic extremists are very rare, but they do happen. One violent event occurred in 2004, when attackers with automatic weapons and explosives burst into a Masonic lodge in Istanbul, Turkey, sprayed it with bullets, and set off several bombs. One person was killed, along with one of the terrorists, and six people were injured. Ultimately, eighteen suspects were questioned, and ten were charged with the operation. In 2006, a Muslim man was arrested in Atlanta, and was accused of providing material support to terrorists. He had taken videotapes of the Scottish Rite House of the Temple in Washington DC, which were uploaded to an al-Qaeda computer expert in London. He told investigators that he “believed Freemasons were like the Devil.”

Stories of theft and vandalism of Masonic lodges have been happening with greater frequency around the world, and most recently a Masonic lodge in California was burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances that are being investigated. With religious-inspired violence increasing, Masons need to be aware of the dangers that conspiracy theorists pose to our fraternity, especially when they decide to do more than just vent their anger over the Internet. In the Milwaukee situation, the suspect took a public tour of the building and made note of upcoming events, exit doors, stairwells and other details that would not be of interest to most casual tour-goers. Every lodge should consider an alarm system and other security measures, such as locking their outer doors during meetings, and perhaps even asking local police departments to drive through their parking lots during meetings and events.

It is unfortunate that an organization that prides itself so much on love for our fellow man should have to consider our own safety, but that is the nature of the times in which we live. In particular, ISIS and al-Qaeda both are actively recruiting would-be terrorists via social media like Facebook and Twitter, encouraging them to strike against their own neighbors by any means possible. 

Unfortunately, Freemasons make an easy target because we are so visible and our organization is deemed blasphemous to their beliefs.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wisconsin Masons Take Security Measures After Plot Fails

The Freemasons of Wisconsin are taking new security measures around the state after the FBI foiled a terrorist attack on Milwaukee's Scottish Rite Center. 
A place known for its open door policy is forced to make changes. 
"We want Masonry to be open to the public and to our members, but by the same token we have to exercise good sense too,"  explained Frank Struble, Masons Grand Master in Wisconsin. 
Milwaukee terror suspect Samy Hazeh was allegedly plotting to kill 30 people at the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center in downtown Milwaukee.  The door there is now locked 24 hours a day along with other Masonic facilities around the state. 
"Lodges meet there, Scottish Rite does their activities's rented out for weddings and things like that," said Struble. 
The Criminal Complaint shows Hamzeh toured the Milwaukee facility.  The Grand Master doesn't know how the suspect got inside, but a tour for a potential wedding venue is common. 
When referring to his plan, Hamzeh targeted Masonic members saying "these are the one's that need to be killed." 
Struble doesn't know why someone would want to harm a group known for doing good.
"It's a chilling scenario, but who knows what twisted minds come up with," said Struble.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Utah Grand Master Interviewed

Fox 13 TV in Salt Lake City, Utah interviewed the incoming Grand Master, RW Wesley Ing today at the Salt Lake Masonic Temple to talk about Freemasonry in Utah. The video also has several shots of rooms inside the Temple, and a few remarks from Brother Matt Nelson. 

To view the video clip, CLICK HERE.

Masonic Documentary: Terra Masonica

Brother Tristan Bourlard is a Belgian photographer, author, and director of scientific and historical documentaries, including the 2007 film, The Scottish Key. His latest documentary video project is an extremely ambitious one that tells the story of Freemasonry today on virtually every continent by visiting eighty Masonic lodges. It is entitled Terra Masonica.
Terra Masonica will focus on the following: What is Freemasonry today? Who are the Freemasons and what do they do?
These simple questions have never really been treated from a global perspective. Some documents exist, but merely tend to repeat the old fantasies and conspiracy theories.
After its official creation in London in 1717, Freemasonry quickly spread to all continents. For 300 years, specific entities have been created, differentiated by country and local realities.
This world tour in 80 lodges will outline the similarities and contrasts between lodges on the five continents. For the first time you will explore the real Freemasonry, from Patagonia to Lapland, from Taiwan to Harlem, in 80 lodges. We will discover the oldest lodges on each continent as well as the most peculiar lodges.
Terra Masonica will talk to ordinary Freemasons and will explore their current reality. We will meet these Freemasons in their daily lives, within their families, in their own environment. We will listen to their views of the world, their questions and doubts in an ever-changing world.
We will try to understand the influence of the local context that defines the characteristics of each masonry, whether it is white, black, Asian; whether it’s influenced by Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, voodoo or atheism; in peace or wartime, under prohibition or persecution and democratic freedoms; in crisis situation or in full expansion.
To see regular updates of the lodges Brother Bourlard visits, plus world maps of his incredible journey, visit his website HERE. He also has a Facebook page HERE.
The video is due to be released in late 2016, or early 2017.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, January 27th, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the day the United Nations has chosen to commemorate victims of the Holocaust during World War II. Six million Jews were murdered by Germany's Nazi regime, along with millions of other non-Jews, including gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet POWs, ethnic Poles, disabled citizens, and many others. In total, somewhere between 11 and 17 million people were systematically killed by the Nazis.

Freemasonry was outlawed by the Nazis, and it is unknown how many Masons were murdered by Hitler. The most commonly mentioned number is 80,000, but the figure is probably low, and has been estimated in some sources as high as 200,000. No one really knows how many were killed simply for the "crime" of being Freemasons.

The anniversary has been marked since 2005 and it is the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland by the Russian army in 1945. At least one million people died there.

The United States Holocaust  Memorial Museum in Washington DC has an article as part of its Holocaust Encyclopedia about the treatment of Freemasons under the Nazis. In part, it says:

Nazi propaganda continued to link Jews and Freemasons; Julius Streicher's virulent publication Der Stuermer (The Assault Trooper) repeatedly printed cartoons and articles that attempted to portray a “Jewish-Masonic” conspiracy. Freemasonry also became a particular obsession of the chief of Security Police and SD, Reinhard Heydrich, who counted the Masons, along with the Jews and the political clergy, as the “most implacable enemies of the German race.” In 1935 Heydrich argued for the need to eliminate not only the visible manifestations of these “enemies,” but to root out from every German the “indirect influence of the Jewish spirit”—“a Jewish, liberal, and Masonic infectious residue that remains in the unconscious of many, above all in the academic and intellectual world.” 
Heydrich created a special section of the SS Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst;SD), Section II/111, to deal specifically with Freemasonry. The SD was particularly interested, as its personnel believed that Freemasonry exercised actual political power, shaped public opinion through control of the press, and was thus in a position to provoke war, subversion, and revolution. Later, Section VII B 1 of the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt;RSHA), an amalgamation of the SD and the Security Police formed in 1939, took over the section devoted to investigating Freemasonry.
As they conquered Europe, the Germans forcibly dissolved Masonic organizations and confiscated their assets and documents wherever they established an occupation regime. After a lodge was closed, it was ransacked for membership lists, important library and archival items, furnishings, and other cultural artifacts. Items seized would be sent on to the appropriate German agency, primarily the SD and later, the RSHA. 
As part of their propaganda campaign against Freemasonry, the Nazis and other local right-wing organizations mounted anti-Masonic exhibitions throughout occupied Europe. German-occupied Paris hosted an anti-Masonic exhibition in October 1940, as did German-occupied Brussels in February 1941. Displaying Masonic ritual and cultural artifacts stolen from lodges, such exhibitions aimed to ridicule and direct hatred towards Freemasons and to heighten fears of a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy. German wartime propaganda, particularly in the army, charged that the Jews and Masons had provoked World War II and were responsible for the policies of US President Franklin Roosevelt, who was identified as a Freemason.
After the end of World War II, vast collections of Masonic archives and library collections that had been seized by German authorities were captured, in turn, by Allied and Soviet forces. For example, a significant Masonic archive was found in Silesia, in eastern Germany, by Soviet troops in the last days of World War II. The Soviet authorities shipped the records to Moscow, where they were held in secret archives. Other Masonic-related materials were recovered in Poland; some of this material has been microfilmed and stored in the archive of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Since the end of the Cold War, many Masonic-related collections have been returned to their countries of origin, while others continue to be held in foreign repositories.

Grand Lodge of Andorra

Freemasonry flourishes in the unlikeliest of places.  

The principality of Andorra is one of six tiny sovereign states in Europe referred to as microstates, which also include Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City. It is nestled along the border between Spain and France in the eastern Pyrenees mountains. The current principality was created in 1278 AD, and is a monarchy, jointly governed by two Co-princes - the President of France and the Spanish Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell. Living in such a cut off region protected the tiny country from most of the wars and conflicts that befell Europe over the centuries, but it also kept the people isolated from much of the outside world. 

In 1993, the Andorrans voted to enact a national Constitution which gave the population the right of free association. As a result, the first official Masonic lodge in the country was chartered in 1994 by the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise, followed by a Spanish lodge six months later by the Grand Lodge of Spain.

The Grand Lodge of Andorra was officially consecrated with the agreement of the two foreign grand lodges on September 9th, 2000 at the Sala de Congresos of Andorra. It is made up of just eight Lodges: La Triada Nº1, Sant Joan de les Valls Nº2, Carlemany No 3, Vescomte Arnau de Castellbó Nº4, Montsalvat Nº5, Masonry Universal Nº6, Minerva Nº7 and Els Cavallers d'Envalira Nº8. The first Grand Master Antoni d'Ortadó, a member of the Lodge Sant Joan de les Valls was elected.

The country today is home to approximately 20,000 Andorrans, 45,000 residents from other countries, and is annually visited by 10,000,000 tourists. It is not a member of the European Union.

For more information, see the Grand Lodge of Andorra website.

Statement From The Grand Lodge of Wisconsin Concerning Terrorist Plot

In reference to the story from yesterday about the planned attack on Milwaukee's Scottish Rite Center by an Islamic extremist, this message was posted by the Grand Master at about 2:00PM today on the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin's Facebook page:

For Release
Dousman, Wisconsin
27 January 2016

We are thankful to law enforcement for thwarting a potential tragedy at the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Milwaukee which houses several Masonic organizations as well as the Dyslexia Center for Children. Freemasonry promotes love among all people regardless of religious belief. One of the five tenets of Scottish Rite Freemasonry is tolerance. Indeed, Freemasonry is one of the few organizations in the world that include and welcome those of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.
Many of the founders of this country were Freemasons and thus our freedoms of speech, assembly, press—and especially of religion—can be traced directly to the tenets of Freemasonry. As a result, Freemasonry over the course of time has been the target of attack by the intolerant zealot. We will continue to promote, protect and defend love for all people regardless of religious belief as we have for over three hundred years. Again, we are so thankful for law enforcement for being vigilant in protection of those we serve. 
Franklin J. Struble
Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin
Michael A. DeWolf, 33°
Scottish Rite Deputy for Wisconsin

MWPHGL of Michigan Needs Volunteers in Flint 1/30

The Freemasons of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Michigan are organizing on January 30th to distribute water to the citizens of Flint, Michigan.

From their website:

To the Men, Masons, Sisters and Eastern Stars of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Michigan, on Saturday January 30, 2016 we'll have 3 semi-truck loads of bottled water delivered to the City of Flint. We're going to need help unloading one of the trucks. This is a "Call to Action" for the Prince Hall Community at large. We'll need all hands on deck 11am @ Berston Fieldhouse, 3300 N Saginaw Street, Flint, MI 48505.

PHAMILY, our Brothers and Sisters there have been working none stop to take care of the City of Flint, MI during this crisis and could use your Man and Woman Power to make it through the 1st quarter.
Most Worshipful Grand Master
For more information, please contact:

Support our “Flint Water Donation Program” today with zeal and tenacity. Rarely do we find men and women who willingly engage in solid thoughtfulness of others. There is an utmost quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions, but my Brothers and Sisters this one is much more serious and requires pain staking effort, support and assistants. The call has been made and we must answer to the relief of the City of Flint, Michigan.

On behalf of the residents of Flint, Michigan and members of the Michigan Prince Hall Family, I THANK YOU for helping to make a difference!!!

Tyrone Hampton
Worshipful Senior Grand Deacon Bernt C. Walker @ (313) 350-5317 /
RWDDGL Kenyon McElway @ (248) 497-1698 /
Also, the Grand Lodge of Michigan F&AM sent out a notice on January 20th asking for volunteers needed for distributing water, installing filter kits in homes, packaging test kits, data entry and staffing at the volunteer reception center. Please check with them directly to see what the current and ongoing needs are, as this message is now a week old.

For details, CLICK HERE.

"The Red Sea Incident" - Masonry in Saudi Arabia

After the story came through yesterday about a Muslim plotting a terrorist attack on a Scottish Rite center in Milwaukee, I was doing some internet browsing and came across a description of an incident I had long heard of, but never knew the details. Referred to as "The Red Sea Incident," it tells the story of a Masonic lodge in Saudi Arabia in 1977 that was organized for foreign contractors in that strict Islamic country, and the night it was broken up by the Saudi police. Several officers were arrested, and the lodge was ransacked, along with the homes of several brethren.

Red Sea Lodge No. 919 was chartered by the American Canadian Grand Lodge AF&AM, in the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodges of Germany (VHLvD). Apart from the foreign contractor zones, Freemasonry is completely forbidden in the Kingdom, and as the story goes on to show, it is only occasionally tolerated, and Masons practice their Craft in Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries, at their peril. It is a stark example of why we should not take our freedom to associate in the West for granted.

Interestingly, I was visiting California last year and met a Brother who had actually been at the lodge the night of the incident. But I had never come across the details until I found this story.

The story was written by Brother James Krohn, and it was printed on the 10th anniversary of the incident in 1987 by the Grand Lodge. It can be found on the Skirrit website, here.

FBI Stops Plan For Mass Shooting At Milwaukee Masonic Temple

A man has been arrested for planning a mass attack on the Milwaukee Scottish Rite Center on Tuesday. From the International Business Times:
The FBI has foiled a mass shooting targeting a Masonic temple in Milwaukee, the government said Tuesday. Milwaukee resident Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, 23, has been arrested and charged with possessing machine guns and a silencer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced. 
Hamzeh had engaged in extensive conversations with two confidential sources, speaking in Arabic, explaining how he had planned to execute the attack on the temple, the bureau says.
“Samy Mohamed Hamzeh devised a detailed plan to commit a mass shooting intended to kill dozens of people. He also said that he wanted this mass shooting to be ‘known the world over’ and to ‘ignite’ broader clashes,” said acting U.S. Attorney Gregory Haanstad in a news release. “It is difficult to calculate the injury and loss of life that was prevented by concerned citizens coming forward and by the tireless efforts of the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.” 
Hamzeh had reportedly been under investigation since September 2015, and in October 2015 the investigation revealed he planned to travel to Jordan, enter the Israeli-occupied West Bank and attack Israeli soldiers and citizens living there. Later, Hamzeh abandoned those plans, focusing instead on the U.S. due to financial and logistical issues, the report went on to say.
“Thirty is excellent. If I got out, after killing 30 people, I will be happy 100 percent. . . 100 percent happy, because these 30 will terrify the world,” Hamzeh was recorded as saying, according to the report.
Hamzeh had purchased the machine guns and silencers from two individuals who were actually undercover FBI agents, resulting in his arrest Tuesday.
“I am telling you, if this hit is executed, it will be known all over the world,” Hamzeh was recorded as saying, according to the report. “The people will be scared and the operations will increase, and there will be problems all over, because more than one problem took place, and this will be the third problem, this will lead to people clashing with each other. This way we will be igniting it. I mean we are marching at the front of the war.”

Hamzeh was planning to attack the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center, a historic building on N. Van Buren St. in downtown Milwaukee that hosts weddings, conferences, meetings and other special events. The Wisconsin Scottish Rite, which purchased the building in 1912, has been in the community since 1863.
Hamzeh had scouted the Masonic center by taking a tour and spoke in detail about how the attack would occur, the complaint says. A woman in the lobby of the center Tuesday afternoon told a reporter that the staff had no comment.
Hamzeh had been under investigation by the FBI since September, which used confidential informants who secretly recorded him. Undercover FBI agents arrested him this week after he tried to buy automatic weapons from them, the complaint says.
Hamzeh originally had planned to travel to Jordan to attack Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank, but ditched those plans because of logistical issues and focused on attacking a target in the U.S., according to the criminal complaint. 
He hatched a plan to attack a Masonic center in Milwaukee with two others, who were actually the informants cooperating with the FBI.
Last week, Hamzeh and the informants went to a local shooting range and practiced firing a handgun. Afterward, they went to the Masonic center and got a tour of the facility. Later, Hamzeh spoke with the informants in detail about the planned attack, according to the complaint.
During this meeting, which was recorded and translated from Arabic to English, Hamzeh, according to the complaint, said they needed three automatic weapons, each with a silencer, to launch the attack. 
According to the complaint:
They would enter with clothes over their heads, he said. It was important to quietly kill the receptionist, the first person they were likely to see, Hamzeh said.
"... If she was alone, it is OK, if there were two of them, shoot both of them, do not let the blood show, shoot her from the bottom, two or three shots in her stomach and let her sit on the chair and push her to the front, as if she is sleeping, did you understand?"
After killing those at the door, one attacker would remain there, Hamzeh said. "...One of us will stay at the door at the entrance and lock the door down, he will be at the main door down, two will get to the lift (elevator) up, they will enter the room, and spray everyone in the room. The one who is standing downstairs will spray anyone he finds. We will shoot them, kill them and get out."
Hamzeh said each of them would have to kill everyone around him, "to annihilate everyone, there is no one left, I mean when we go into a room, we will be killing everyone, that's it, this is our duty."
The exit plan was to leave by the stairs and out the door, quietly and calmly. "We leave, as if there is nothing, no running, no panic, just regular walking."
He predicted the attack could bring global attention, the complaint states. 
"I am telling you, if this hit is executed, it will be known all over the world. Sure, all over the world, all the Mujahedeen will be talking and they will be proud of us."
Of the target, he said, according to the complaint: "They are all Masonic; they are playing with the world like a game, man, and we are like asses, we don't know what is going on, these are the ones who are fighting, these are the ones that needs to be killed, not the Shi'iat, because these are the ones who are against us, these are the ones who are making living for us like hell," he said. 
"Thirty is excellent. If I got out, after killing thirty people, I will be happy 100% ... 100% happy, because these 30 will terrify the world."
Hamzeh met with undercover FBI agents on Monday. The undercover agents showed two weapons and a silencer to Hamzeh, and told him the weapons were capable of fully automatic fire, the complaint says. 
Hamzeh agreed to a price and paid it to the undercover agents, who then handed Hamzeh a bag containing two automatic weapons and a silencer. Hamzeh carried the bag to his car and put the bag in the trunk of the vehicle, the complaint states. He then was arrested.
Robert J. Shields, special agent in charge of the Milwaukee FBI, said the arrest was the result of well-coordinated law enforcement work, "thwarting an attack that could have resulted in significant injury and/or loss of life."